When open-source video jukebox Miro was in beta and known as the Democracy Player, the biggest problem it had was stability. Graduating from beta fixed most of the problems, but not even a name change could erase the feeling that this Webware 100 winning program wasn't firing on all cylinders.

Miro's new interface is based on a faster-running foundation. (Credit: CNET Networks)

In version 2.0 for Windows and Mac, all that's changed. At the top of the list of changes is a serious attempt to improve the usability. At least on my Windows XP machine, with 2GB of RAM, those modifications have paid off. The program flies now, where it used to struggle with takeoff. Using it all day, shutting it down, and restarting it intentionally, has produced no crashes or hiccups--it's as smooth as a CRT screen.

Miro 2.0 sports a pop-out button to watch videos while you browse. (Credit: CNET Networks)

The interface overhaul streamlines the design while keeping button controls in the same place, basing it all on widgets. It's not readily apparent what this means for the average user, because the workflow is practically identical to previous versions. Search for a video or channel, add it to the sidebar or subscribe to it if you want all content from that producer, and Miro begins to download the video. It defaults to delete videos after five days, but a button on the UI toggles a "save" switch.

Besides the interface, the other major change is that you can now pop out your playback screen from the main player. A button located near the controls at the bottom right of the window does the deed, so you can now continue watching videos--or at least playing them--while you surf in Miro for more even more vids.

Miro also defaults to grab HD content whenever available, including from YouTube. It also supports streaming Web sites, such as Hulu, and there's new support for audio podcasts as well. If you're familiar with previous versions, this one will be instantly recognizable, but if you're not you should still be able to use it without looking up instructions. If you're new to Miro, it does manage the all-important torrent. The new torrent engine is based on libtorrent, a faster delivery system than before.

The pop-out window offers a compromise between full screen and in-player playback. (Credit: CNET Networks)

The flaws left in Miro are minor. There's a lack of mouse-over labels, which would take the edge off the learning curve for new users or those who just can't be bothered memorizing what each button does. There are two search boxes, one on the sidebar and one at the top right of the main window. They both seem to do the same thing, so it'd be good if the designers could either label how they're different or get rid of one.

The new Miro is faster and easier to use, and worth checking out if you've dismissed it before.